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Posted by on Jan 19, 2010 in Economy, International, Politics, Science & Technology, Society, War | 17 comments


My extensive business and legal background causes me to read a wide variety of publications on the Internet every day. I often find very good political analysis on many different business journals that is welcomed balance to the many extremely partisan political blogs out there. Naturally TMV is a excellent alternative to the extremism.

Our country has abandoned a reasonably regulated free enterprise system in favor of crony capitalism (now know as corporatism). Both parties are populated with too many corrupt representatives of the wealthy oligarchy that effectively runs this country. We abandoned a balanced economy that could be globally competitive for decades to come. Instead we chose to favor the narcissistic finance industry and short-term profits over the best long-term interests of our country.

Corporatism today is the apotheosis of short-sighted greed, arrogance, and narrow self-interest trumping all other public needs and sound private business enterprises. Instead of government encouraging new private enterprises to start and expand in a variety of old and new technologies, we now favor a rigged gambling casino to produce extreme profits for a very small number of well-connected people.

China represents a powerful challenge to the U.S. because it sees no conflict between a political dictatorship with little freedom of thought and speech for the public coupled to a robust big business sector that will use all possible tactics to beat its competitors. It possesses the central control and ability to take decisive and quick actions to meet internal and external challenges. The decisions may not always be right but it can change course rather quickly. Many of its policies certainly are far more astute than what has been pursued by the ossified and paralyzed U.S. polity. China will not temporarily fail because of a democratic revolution but because of its own hubris, greed, and by cooking its internal governmental and business financial books.

Democracy is not the normal state of political affairs for humanity. Looking over the past 5,000 years, the most stable political and economic regimes have been lead by benevolent dictators. There have been many successful brutish and rigidly autocratic regimes, but those that ultimately prevailed over longer periods of time were the sensible supreme rulers that knew when and where they had to lead and take action, but they also pulled back and gave reasonable amounts of freedom to individuals and business enterprises in many areas of human endeavor.

I read a great article today by Paul Farrell in MarketWatch. These are some of his observations on the slowly-moving tragedy that is the American Empire in the first part of the 21st Century. Ossified, perverted and end-game democracy and our greedy oligarchy are strangling this country to death and we may not be able to change this depressing trajectory. Mr. Farrell is a disappointed Obama voter from a more educated, thoughtful, conservative yet independent perspective. He lists 10 mistakes that President Obama has made in 2009.

“A year ago, millions of Americans — investors, taxpayers, consumers, voters — came together uplifted by the “audacity of hope,” inspired by a vision of “change we can believe in,” by “bold and specific ideas about how to fix our ailing economy and strengthen the middle class, make health care affordable for all, achieve energy independence, and keep America safe in a dangerous world.” … “Yes, we can” was the rallying cheer. You were the game-changer after the Bush-Cheney fiasco. What happened? Today we just don’t see, or expect to see, any real change we can believe in. America is more polarized than under Bush’s GOP, dysfunctional as both parties tragically undermine our great nation.
* * *
… [T]he future … will reveal a natural cycle with you cast in the predictable final scene of a Shakespearean-style plot driven by fate, the same dramatic destiny of all great nations and civilizations. We know a dark conspiracy made up of Wall Street, corporate chief executives and the Forbes 400 controls Washington, limiting and manipulating you. So we know it’s not all your fault — for you are playing your role well in America’s epic historical drama.
1. [Democracy kills itself] … “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” John Adams, a great American president, made that famous prediction at the beginning of our great nation. … And yet, paradoxically, when a democracy commits suicide, it also kills off the very capitalism that made it powerful, the economic system Adam Smith identified the same year our Declaration of Independence was signed. Today we are neither independent nor free; King George has been replaced by a far more powerful moneyed conspiracy that you sold out to last year.
2. [Wall Street Murderers] … Scottish historian Alexander Tytler [stated] “The average life span of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.” Then “once a society becomes successful it becomes arrogant, righteous, overconfident, corrupt, and decadent … overspends … [on] costly wars … [permits] wealth inequity and social tensions to increase; and society enters a secular decline.” … We’re on suicide watch, acting out the final scenes President Adams predicted for democracy, as Wall Street murders capitalism.
3. [Financial Burnout] … [I]n 2003, Kevin Phillips, a political historian, published “Wealth and Democracy.” Phillips warned: “Most great nations, at the peak of their economic power, become arrogant and wage great world wars at great cost, wasting vast resources, taking on huge debt, and ultimately burning themselves out.” Three trillion wasted, says economist Joseph Stiglitz. And now, Mr. President, you’re playing your role, along with Bush, Paulson, Bernanke and Congress, piling on an unsustainable $23.7 trillion in what is the greatest domestic blunder in American history.
4. Failing to lead with ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ systemic financial reforms … Adam Smith’s … vision, greed is socially beneficial only when properly harnessed and channeled,” with incentives for risk-taking, honest competition, regulatory safeguards, and regulators who will actually enforce the rules. … [A] once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a sturdier and safer financial system is slipping away. No consumer protection, no mortgage clawbacks, no derivatives regulations, nothing. You are setting the stage for another, bigger meltdown, the “Great Depression 2,” the last tragic act in this drama, dead ahead.
5. Failing to pick a cast of characters that could have changed history … Last year many voted for you fearing McCain might pick Phil Gramm as Treasury secretary. Unfortunately, Mr. President, your picks not only revived Reaganomics under the guise of Keynesian economics, you sidelined a real change-agent, Paul Volcker, and picked Paulson-clones like Geithner and Summers. But worse of all, you’re reappointing Bernanke, a Greenspan clone, as Fed chairman, an economist who … “doesn’t even know he doesn’t understand how things work.” And with that pick, you proved you also don’t understand how things work. And yet forever true to the script, your decision fits perfectly in the final act captured by your predecessor, President Adams.
6. Failing to stand up to our 100 senatorial assassins and 261,000 lobbyists …Instead of leadership, you let Congress run the show, a strategy that may work in community organizing but in Washington [we are reminded] of the old adage that “the inmates are running the prison.” We now know why Adams used words like “murder” and “suicide” as the endgame in a democracy. Suicide was a theme in a third of Shakespeare’s dramas. … Today, any one of 100 self-interested senators can legally threaten to “assassinate” the entire nation. And you seem unwilling to stand up to their totally dysfunctional kamikaze mission.
7. Presidential Weakness … Economist Peter Morici writes in the Baltimore Sun: “On banks, Obama talks tough, does little.” Matt Taibbi is far more caustic in “Obama’s Big Sellout,” Mr. President: “A once-in-a-generation political talent” has “allowed his presidency to be hijacked. Instead of reining in Wall Street, Obama has allowed himself to be seduced by it … pulled a bait-and-switch on us.” And yet while it’s so blatant and obvious, Wall Street gets away with it because your presidency has merged into a fat-cat bankers’ conspiracy.

8. Wall Street bankers are stealing trillions … In “Not So Radical Reform,” BusinessWeek says the “top five U.S. commercial banks … were on track” earning at the rate of $70 billion “in 2009 trading unregulated derivative contracts.” The Journal connects the dots: The same banks “allocated about $90 billion for overall compensation,” with average bonuses of $500,000, ten times the income of most Americans. Yes, Wall Street looted that money from taxpayers as you turned a blind eye, Mr. President. One Journal commentator says “the government should make it clear that it will allow these institutions to fail.” Except no one believes you have the guts or the will to do that, Mr. President. You are a Wall Street banker’s dream. But you have failed America’s 95 million investors and the consequences will be disastrous in the near future.
9. No Limits on or Consequences for Risk-taking … When things are very good, people take ridiculous risks, and then things come crashing down and the risk just moves somewhere else … We don’t know where it’s going next, but someone will be making money somewhere.” Why? Because “like a lethal virus, it seems, hubris never really disappears, it simply finds a new host.” Yes, that deadly virus, that insatiable greed, mutates fast among Wall Street’s fat-cat bankers.
10. Failing to see the ticking time-bomb scenario – the next big meltdown …The end-game is “never different,” whether penned by Shakespeare, Adams, Tytler or Reinhart and Rogoff. As Frank says of the Financial Crisis Review Commission: Wall Street bankers will “skate away yet again by deflecting blame or mouthing pro forma mea culpas … a sign that this inquiry, like so many other promises of reform since 9/15, is likely to leave Wall Street’s status quo largely intact. That’s the ticking-bomb scenario that truly imperils us all.”
All the actors, cabinet officers, Fed chairmen, regulators, lobbyists are playing set roles in a well-known theater, waiting for their “entrance and exit” cues, “merely players” in a larger predestined historical drama re-written so many times, in the same repetitive plot. Like Shakespeare, economists Reinhart and Rogoff made clear in “This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly,” we are performing yet another revival of a 800-year-old history of self-destructive bull/bear, boom/bust cycles, with each ending in the same old Shakespearean-style final tragic act.
Epilogue…The endgame script won’t change. We’re all “merely actors” in an epic drama well-known to Adams as well as Shakespeare. But don’t get us wrong, we still do admire you. We know you’ll honor your Nobel legacy, like Carter and Gore, after you leave office. But meanwhile, you are playing your role well in this tragic final act. Indeed, all of America’s “merely actors” are right on cue with their “entrances and exits.” Yes, even our 95 million investors are playing their designated roles too. … In fact, it really doesn’t matter much whether anyone goes to the voting booth, ever again, because the final scene has already been written … by your predecessor, John Adams.

I was a bit concerned when we elected Sen. Obama President because he was a former law school professor. I graduated from law school 2 decades ago and I know the personalities that populate law school faculties. They are very intelligent, glib, eloquent, sometimes shallow, often non-committal, highly flexible, narcissistic, and preoccupied by being popular among students and faculty. They don’t like fights or taking stands. We really needed to elect someone who would relish the fight and go for the jugular at this critical point in history. Instead we got a great actor playing the role of President but others are writing the script and directing the tragedy.

All the pointless, irrelevant, shallow and silly debates between our political parties and among Americans during the past decade, going on now, and continuing for the foreseeable future, are merely the comic relief from the overall tragedy unfolding before our very eyes. Life goes on after a major tragedy occurs, but it’s not fun picking up the pieces. Now let’s enjoy the epic performance and try to forget that we’re actually watching real life.

Marc Pascal, a bit depressed but still ranting in Phoenix, AZ

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